January 24





Director: John Smith

Runtime:16 minutes

Synopsis: Filmed from the artist John Smith’s window during lockdown, short fragments from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s speeches relating to COVID-19 are combined with views of the London skyline.

URL: https://vimeo.com/459066331


Filmed from the artist’s window during lockdown, Citadel combines short fragments from UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s speeches relating to COVID-19 with views of the London skyline. Recognising the British government’s decision to place business interests before public health, the film relocates the centre of power from Parliament to the financial district of the City of London.

Here the city is regarded as a site of both dread and beauty and the film documents the dramatic effects of changing light conditions upon its architecture. Shifting its focus from the city’s gleaming skyscrapers to the inhabitants of the dense urban housing that lies in their shadow, Citadel contrasts faceless corporate power with individual lived experience.

John Smith is an artist and lecturer who makes films, videos, and installation works. Often rooted in everyday life, Smith’s films playfully explore the language of cinema by subverting the perceived boundaries between documentary and fiction, representation and abstraction.  He is known for short films offering incisive commentary on the world at large from the confines of his home (or hotel room).

Born in Walthamstow, London in 1952, Smith lives and works in London. He studied at North-East London Polytechnic and the Royal College of Art, after which he became an active member of the London Filmmakers Co-op. Inspired in his formative years by conceptual art and structural film, but also fascinated by the immersive power of narrative and the spoken word, he has developed an extensive body of work.

His most recent films combine fragments from Boris Johnson’s sometimes grotesque speeches about the virus with glimpses of everyday life, be they of Smith washing his hands or window views of the London skyline. The centre of power is not in Westminster but in the banking district. In dramatic changes of light, the city’s glass architecture looks like that of a citadel, a source of horror as well as aesthetic beauty. But the magic it exudes is grotesque and absurd. Its mantras cannot keep the plague at bay.

With Citadel, John Smith delivers a smart and effective way to capture the madness of the year 2020 and the empty words of a populist politician.


Streaming on MUBI

Images courtesy of MUBI